"Production required some more work"
by Alan Ward for remotegoat on 29/11/14

Founded in 2009 The Theatre Collection is, according to its own website, the descendent of two theatre companies with a long history and many past productions. It seems to have a special interest in Russian theatre, and Dead Souls was adapted from the work of Nikolai Gogol by Victor Sobchak. Sobchak is also the director of this piece, which was performed in the theatre space above the Lord Stanley pub.

The pub itself is really very nice, the theatre space quaint. In this instance the production, whose 12 strong cast equalled the numbers in the audience on the night I attended, might have been a little ambitious. The space might suit productions with a smaller cast and fewer scene changes, as the contrived dragging across of the curtain by cast members whilst in character presented something of a distraction throughout the first half.

The piece opens to a bizarre movement piece lit by ultraviolet light, which is repeated towards the end. Quite what it is symbolising is unclear, and like many areas of the production this introduction seemed unrefined.

The story, a comedy, sees Chichikov (Gary Voss) on a mission to purchase dead serfs from landowners. He wishes to secure ownership of these dead souls so that he can take out a loan against them.

There is a lack of consistency, resulting in an uneven performance. Some performers took the comedy well into the realm of farce (with innuendo and lots of raised eyebrows) whilst others searched for a deeper meaning in their character’s actions that probably wasn’t there.

Gary Voss, as protagonist Chichikov, presented us with some heartfelt moments. As Selifan, Alexander Myall has the difficult task of holding together the production, often addressing the audience directly and singing as one scene links to another. Andrew Nance as an eccentric Nozdriyv committed to his character and presented the audience with some of the most engaging scenes.

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